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Lakewood-Camp Murray marriage could be compatible

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Sep. 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
September 8, 2011 9:00 am

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The City of Lakewood and Camp Murray have gotten chummier in recent weeks over the issue of moving the camp’s main gate. But should they take the relationship to the next level?

Lakewood and Camp Murray will explore whether it makes sense for the city to annex the 240-acre state-owned property. The site – home to the Air and Army national guards as well as the state’s emergency operations center – is currently in unincorporated Pierce County. But it’s within Lakewood’s urban growth boundary, and the city has long been interested in annexing it as well as Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

At first glance at least, annexation would seem to be more in Camp Murray’s interest than in Lakewood’s. The city likely would assume some infrastructure and maintenance responsibilities – such as contracting for road repair and snow removal. But it wouldn’t get sales or property tax revenue because there are no businesses or residences at the camp.

However, there are possible advantages for Lakewood. The city would have control over the camp’s land-use decisions – a point of contention in the past. The dispute over moving the main gate into Lakewood’s Tillicum neighborhood grew out of the fact that the city doesn’t have sway over such decisions at the camp.

If Camp Murray were annexed, Lakewood would handle land-use changes the same way it does with other state institutions located within city boundaries, such as Pierce College and Western State Hospital – through a master plan process that studies impacts and solicits community input.

There’s also symbolic value in having Camp Murray leaders and those who work there identify themselves as part of Tillicum and the greater Lakewood community. They would no longer be outsiders but people with a stake in the city.

The annexation process – if it goes forward – could take years. But Lakewood should move forward more quickly on at least one piece of Camp Murray – its small boat launch on American Lake.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife lease on the launch expires next month, and it would be in Lakewood’s interest to take control of the facility before the 2012 boating season. The launch, which could stand to be improved, is the only part of Camp Murray that is open to civilian use.

If the launch were to close, it would put more usage pressure on the city’s American Lake North Park & Marina. And taking over the facility would give the city more control over those boaters who launch there but create law enforcement and safety issues out on the lake.

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